Nicole wearing one of her all-time favorite thrift store finds.
“You give away more clothes than I own,” said a friend years ago when I showed up to a dance rehearsal with a couple big bags of clothes to share. It wasn’t the first time I found myself purging large amounts of clothing, and it certainly wasn’t the last. Eventually I started thinking about my shopping habits, and I began to realize that I was guilty of mindless consumption, but many years would pass before I would make significant changes. I felt okay with the rapid cycle of mixing up my wardrobe because it was fun, plus I would pass along my discarded clothes to friends, or donate them to charities. Little did I know what actually happens with donated clothing. (Spoiler: Almost all of it ends up in a landfill.)
My interest in fashion started at a young age. My Grandmother was a bit of a fashionista herself, and she showered me with a new wardrobe every year. I don’t recall how I came up with the idea, but I had a personal goal of not repeating any outfits within a month’s time. I never told anyone that I was doing this, and I didn’t know anyone else who did. It was just a little game I played with myself, and I had a method of keeping my clothes organized to help me keep track. You might say I was already a little obsessed with my wardrobe.
In high school I went through a bit of a transformation. Clothing was still a method of self-expression, but in a much more casual, grunge-y, 90s way. Oversized concert tees (The Cure, Depeche Mode) and jeans were wardrobe staples. Much to my Grandmother’s horror, I would even wear boxer shorts outside of the house.
When I was in college I worked as a makeup artist at stores like Bloomingdales and Saks to help support my dance career. That meant I got an employee discount, and I was always abreast of sales. Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of my wages on fashion. Fortunately I also discovered the joys of thrift shopping around this time, so my wardrobe was a mix of new styles and cool vintage finds.
I still have some amazing pieces from my college thrift shopping adventures, but most of what I bought is history. The inexpensiveness of everything made me feel more inclined to buy obscene amounts of clothing. Sometimes I would leave with huge bags full of clothes in a single trip. My addiction to wearing new things all the time was in full force. I was having so much fun with fashion. Fashion is fun! Weeeeee!
I eventually retired my dancing shoes, but kept working in the beauty biz. For a few years I was a beauty buyer at Fred Segal, again surrounded by fashion. I acquired many unique pieces that I wore for years, but let’s just say that working in a fashion-forward environment can be dangerous. Dressing up was the norm, and I was surrounded by fashionistas and cool brands that were available for purchase every single day.
Did I mention that I am also lifelong environmentalist? It took me a while to connect the dots, and to realize that my fashion addiction was at odds with my worldviews. But more on that later. Stay tuned for Part 2!